Good to very good hunting conditions on opening day gave way to misty-rainy weather on day two of Wisconsin’s 2010 gun deer hunt.
Hunters participating in the traditional November nine-day gun deer hunt that began Saturday, Nov. 20, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 28, registered a preliminary tally of 106,404 deer over the first two days of the hunt.
The 2010 preliminary count was up about 6.3 percent from the opening weekend count of 100,330 from 2009. Preliminary buck harvest statewide in 2010 was 54,263 and preliminary antlerless harvest was 52,141.
“We want to remind folks that these preliminary numbers come from a staff call-around to deer registration stations this morning,” said Tom Hauge, director of the state Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife management program. “The final opening weekend tally will likely be somewhat larger when all the registration stubs are entered into the data base over the next couple of months.”
According to the DNR, hunters registered 3,667 deer in Waupaca County, 2,139 bucks and 1,528 antlerless deer. That was the third-highest total among Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Polk County led the way with 4,359 deer, followed by Sauk County at 3,817.
Harvest totals for other area counties include Waushara, 1,729 (921 bucks, 808 antlerless); Portage, 1,965 (1,276 bucks, 689 antlerless); Outagamie, 1,319 (741 bucks, 578 antlerless); Winnebago, 534 (274 bucks, 260 antlerless); and Shawano, 2,183 (1,364 bucks and 819 antlerless).
“The hunters I talked to opening day were upbeat with most saying they were seeing deer,” Hauge said. “Conditions were especially good in the northwest, where they had some snow on the ground, improving tracking and visibility.”
While the opening weekend is the deer hunting event of the year, there is still a lot of hunting left, according to DNR big game ecologist Keith Warnke.
As of early afternoon on Monday, Nov. 22, 450 opening weekend hunting trip reports had been recorded on the department’s new online reporting database. This is down from 2009 when hunters filed 570 reports. Data from the reports is used to track wildlife population trends and abundance.
“We encourage hunters to continue to file reports,” Warnke said. “The value of this information increases over time and with the number of reports filed each year. We share this information with hunters on our web site and it gives hunters an idea of what other hunters are seeing when they are in the woods.”
The department’s license sales office reported 607,926 gun deer licenses sold by the start of shooting hours. This number was down 3 percent from the comparable day in 2009, but in at least one important category – 10- and 11-year-old hunters – sales were up 15 percent from 2009.
Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.
The long custom of buying a license on the way to deer camp is also intact. DNR licensing managers reported selling 89,593 licenses Friday, Nov. 19. At one point in late afternoon, computers showed license sales coming in at a rate of 333 per minute. Hunters purchased 235,547 licenses in the five days preceding the season opener.
Of the hunters hitting the woods on Saturday:
• 564,825 were residents and 32,056 were nonresidents.
• More than 86,000 youth hunters under 18 years old participated in this year’s hunt.
• Females represent 8.6 percent of the total hunters and 20 percent of new 10- and 11-year-old hunters.
• Hunters throughout the United States and 22 foreign countries purchased a Wisconsin gun deer license. The highest number of nonresident hunters came from Minnesota (16,017), Illinois (7,968), Michigan (1,012) and Florida (838). The greatest number of foreign hunters came from Canada (32), Germany (19) and the United Kingdom (nine).
DNR hunter safety administrator Tim Lawhern noted that historically about half of Wisconsin’s shooting incidents happen during deer drives, usually because someone wasn’t where they were supposed to be or someone shot at a deer when they did not have a safe backstop or in a direction they should not have been shooting.
“Always be sure of your target and anything behind it and if you aren’t sure, don’t shoot,” he said. “Know where your bullet will impact if you miss. It is really important that hunting parties wanting to drive deer have a plan and that they follow that plan to the letter. Knowing where your hunting mates are and where safe shooting lanes are is critical.”
Statistically, about half the hunting incidents happen during opening weekend.
“I am hoping we buck that statistic and can avoid further incidents this year,” Lawhern said. “Compared to the ‘good ol’ days,’ hunting is safe and getting safer. In 1915, of the state’s 155,000 hunters then, 24 were killed and 26 were injured. That meant one in about 3,100 hunters could expect to be killed or injured. Today, it’s one in 100,000 or better. Still, any shooting incident is one too many.”